Friday, October 29, 2010

My Superheroes

Not everyone is lucky enough to know a superhero...and I'm fortunate enough to have two living in my house! Super Why and Wonder Red always make life more interesting. But they are not your ordinary heroes. They do not fly, are never invisible, and don't tend to move very fast. But what they lack in speed is made up for in their wonder and compassion. Our most recent mission involved the discovery of a "woolly worm" in our "garden" (don't be confused by the lack of vegetation) .

It started as the most ordinary of missions (Super Mommy wanted to get pictures of Halloween costumes before the flurry and chaos of the actual event rendered her brain-dead and camera-less). But while frolicking in the gorgeous fall weather, they discovered a hairy (yet small) beast invading the former site of our "damaters" (tomatoes). Super Why was not afraid, and armed with the power of questioning (thus the appropriate name), he learned it was a caterpillar.

Super Mommy (armed with the power of worry) recalled in the fuzzy haze of her science background a zillion years ago that some caterpillars can be irritating or toxic and gently suggested that maybe the caterpillar would like to be put down (as it was cowering in a ball). Wonder Red came over to investigate and noticed the wet residue on Super Why's hand (poison?? urine??) and deduced that the woolly worm was crying because he was sad.

And so my two Super Heroes did what they do best. In their gentle and kind way, they collected mini pine cones and grass clippings as a "soft" blanket for the scared worm (Wonder Red, with the power of empathy, would want no less for herself). They worked together to shelter the worm and show their gentleness, kindness, and compassion. Then Super Why gently led his friend Wonder Red back to the house to the tune of:

"Hip hip, hooray...the Super Readers saved the day!"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Order outside, mess within

I'm an anti-hoarder. Most people who visit our home are utterly amazed by our lack of stuff. The four of us live in a 1300 square foot house (with one bathroom--shocker!). There are no knick-knacks, few pictures on display, and just a few neat containers and shelves to contain the kids' toys. You could drop by at almost any moment and be assured that there will not be any clutter. Most of the toys will be put away in their designated spots, the rugs will be vacuumed, and the fingerprints will be wiped off of the windows and doors. A lot of people consider it intimidating and will either ask me to come organize their homes or promise to never invite me over to witness their messes. There have been times when I've felt like an oddball as most people profess to want order and organization, but few seem to understand how to get there. So I become the anal, OCD butt of jokes or left-handed "compliments" ("I could never be this neat...I just want to be comfortable and let my kids have the freedom to play and have fun")

But lest you think this neatness is a sign of perfection (or an attempt to reach it), let me explain. The order on the outside is my attempt to control the chaos on the inside. I learned a long time ago that there are a multitude of things I can't control. For a self-professed control-freak like myself this is torture. I can't control other people, and I can't control their perceptions of me. I can't make myself fit in or always be the person I want to be. I can't always control how much money I have, or the health, fitness, and stability of those I love. I can't always make things better. But I can clean. I can straighten and de-clutter. I can keep the outside sparkling as an attempt at quieting the noise inside. This is my area of control.

Parenthood has taught me many lessons, and probably the biggest is about the illusion of control. I thought that when I was a parent, I could mold and make my family into what I wanted it to be. I could be the perfect parent along with my perfect husband, John. We even joked when I was pregnant about our little "Apex", the perfect baby-to-be. We were both ministers and very self-aware. We had a close and healthy relationship, both as friends and marriage partners. We worked with "problem" children and those struggling through unhealthy relationships. We knew what not to do, and thus assumed we'd know just what to do.

I followed the rules to a T in my pregnancy...didn't eat anything from the "dangerous" list, and kept myself at the ideal pregnancy weight. I read books to my baby in the womb and had lots of time to bond with our sweet baby boy before we even met him. Nothing prepared us for the unexpected c-section and preemie baby who was sick for much of his first year of life. And even after that, we still weren't prepared for the emergency delivery of his sister two years later that was like a scene out of "ER". I never expected children that wouldn't "submit" to my healthy food regimen, or who would whine, scream, bite, and hit, even when we explained how their behavior was inappropriate.

And so I clean, and straighten, and slowly take the time to straighten out my own perceptions. I'm learning that I'm not always in control...and maybe that's best. I'm learning that I can lean on others (like my as close to perfect as possible husband) for help and support. And most of all, I'm trusting in God to guide us as a family. I'm learning from my kids who show me that it's good to be spontaneous and silly, and that the most important thing is love. I was reading a book to my baby girl the other day that ended with a spider who had been searching for her mother saying something along the lines of you can always find a mother because she's the one who loves you best. Maryn replied, "I love you best, too, Mommy." And I think that's true. Through my kids' love and acceptance (even of my faults), I'm learning more about how to love better. And in all the ways I'm learning and growing, I feel the unconditional love of God, cleaning me on the inside.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sabbath weekend

It's been a great weekend. Peaceful, productive, slow-paced, sleeping in...did I mention that the kids were at their grandparents'? Thank goodness for breaks! I love love love my kids and the family the four of us make is the very best thing in my life. But sometimes the very best things can wear you down to your core and all you want to do is crawl under the covers for about three days. I knew I needed a break when my right eyelid starting twitching...and didn't stop for two weeks. In fact, just now I realized that it's not in a crazy spasm. It was enough to make me consider poking my own eye out (or at least wearing a patch...fortunately, my pirate-loving kids have a couple stashed around the house). So a break was in order. I'm thankful for my in-laws who help us out and also build great relationships with our kids, who look forward to their breaks from us at Nina and Popaw's, too!

I have savored the chance to catch up with John and remember the rhythms of our life before kids...going out when we want, sleeping in, actually getting things accomplished like:

John mulching the front of the house

and me weeding, planting bulbs, and mulching a small area under our bedroom window so that hopefully we'll be treated to a nice spot of color come spring.
John pruned our strange bush (which somehow produced apples for the first time this year?!) and made it much less strange looking

and I enjoyed stumbling across a decorative arrangement of tiny pinecones thanks to the handiwork of our baby girl the day before.
I feel so much more creative energy now that some things have been crossed off the ever-present to do list. Although I have to be creative with the kids (making up activities and games to keep them active and not attacking each other), it's not the kind of creativity that makes me feel inspired and productive...just weary.
I look forward to seeing my sweet babies tomorrow and hearing all about their fun time and creating new adventures together this week, but I'll miss quality time with John and the freedom to think and rest. It's such a precarious balance, this family life, one that I often lose. But rest has given me the perspective to continue juggling until the next blessed Sabbath.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The light at the end of the tunnel

Recently, I've been trying to improve my photography. The more I read and practice, the more I learn that it's all about light. A photograph is produced when light strikes a light-sensitive surface (usually within a camera). The word "photography" from the Greek means "drawing with light". A good picture, in large part, is about controlling how much light you let in.

I can draw parallels with my own life as well. I spent the better (worse) part of the past year in darkness, in a bit of a depression that was mostly irrational. I knew how wonderful my life was and how blessed I was by my devoted husband, sweet children, and by all the fixings that contribute to my stability and well-being (house, financial security, job, friends, etc). And yet I couldn't seem to rise above a sense of gloom. I was perenially tired and cranky, and was more apt to see the few negatives instead of the bazillion positives. I couldn't talk much about it (other than to my husband) as I knew I had no right to feel so down. I'm not sure how many people outside of my immediate family even realized it as I tried to carry on as normal. But whether it be biological, genetic, chemical, hormonal (likely), or a by-product of exhaustion (absolutely), I felt it nonetheless.

I can only talk about it now as I feel the heavy dark cloud lifting. I find myself playing more and complaining less. I can see and feel the light that surrounds me, and hopefully reflect a little of that back. One of my favorite scriptures is John 1:5--"A light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not understood it." (NIV) Another version (NRSV) translates it as "A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." I like both. The light of Christ can shine through us (if we allow it) and the darkness of this world, our hearts, and our minds cannot understand it or overcome it. The light wins out. Praise be to Christ, the light of our lives. May I continue to learn to share this Christ light with others.